What’s a Good Tent Weight for Backpacking?

Choosing the proper tent weight for backpacking doesn't have to be hard!
Choosing the proper tent weight for backpacking doesn’t have to be hard!

Thinking about going outdoors but need to figure out what tent weight for backpacking to aim for?

While there isn’t a one-weight-fits-all/perfect backpacking tent weight, there are criteria that you can think about and apply your circumstances to that will give you a pretty good idea of the tent weight you should be looking at.

Key Factors that Affect Tent Weight

You also have to be strategic when camping

Packed Size

This refers to the backpacking tent weight once the tent is packed (i.e., not set up).

A smaller backpacking tent will have a lower weight than a larger tent simply because it will have fewer materials (for example, less canvas area).

Floor Space

This is related to the point made above: a backpacking tent with more floor space will be heavier than a tent with less floor space simply because it involved more materials and fabric when it was made.

Bodyweight of the Campers

This shouldn’t come as a surprise: if the weight per person is higher, your backpacking tent will have to be bigger and more resistant so that the tent will be heavier.

You need more materials for the extra space and the type of materials will differ (more resistant materials such as tent poles are heavier).

The Different Classes of Backpacking Tent Weight

  • Heavy: 4.5+ Pounds | 2+ Kilograms

  • Lightweight: 3 – 4.5 Pounds | 1.36 – 2 Kilograms

  • Ultralight: less than 3 Pounds | Less than 1.36 Kilograms

Heavy Tent

A heavy backpack tent will withstand any weather conditions
A heavy backpack tent will withstand any weather conditions

While heavy backpacking tents are the most comprehensive option, they’re not always the best option given all the extra weight you’ll have to carry.

If you’re getting started camping, we would not recommend this for your first backpacking tent.

Benefits

Heavy tents normally have a lot of different features, offer great weather protection comfort, and are made of resistant materials.

These are a great bet if your next camping trip is during Winter and the weather forecasts indicate heavy rain; or if you’re camping with your family and want an extremely comfortable experience.

Disadvantages

As the saying goes, “there are no free lunches” and heavy backpacking tents’ comfort and weather protection characteristics are provided on the back of their heavy weight.

This is fine if, for example, you’re going with friends and you can rotate amongst yourselves who carries the tent or if you’re going car camping and only have to set up the tent once.

However, if you plan on using no car and changing camping spots every week, a heavy tent will unlikely be a good choice.

Lightweight Tent

Lightweight tents offer a good balance between weight and comfort
Lightweight tents offer a good balance between weight and comfort

Benefits

These have an excellent backpacking tent weight (lower than heavy tents due to the different materials used) while retaining good features such as comfort and ample interior space.

If you’re camping in the Spring or Summer and don’t require much comfort, these are your best bet.

Disadvantages

The weight savings versus heavy tents come at a price.

Because the lightweight materials these tents are made of are less resistant, a lighter tent will not withstand harsh weather conditions as well as a heavier tent. They likely can resist rain, but not if it’s pouring or snowing and the wind is blowing strongly.

Remember: “There are no free lunches” in life.

Ultralight Tents

Ultralight backpacking tents are less resistant & provide less comfort and interior space than the other tents
Ultralight backpacking tents are less resistant & provide less comfort and interior space than the other tents

These are the lightest weight tents and are usually chosen by campers who want to save weight at all costs.

Benefits

With most ultralight backpacking tents weighing 2 pounds (0.9 kilograms), you’ll barely feel them in your backpack, making them perfect if you plan to hop spots very often.

Disadvantages

Having such low weight comes at a price: ultralight tents tend to have fewer features (less headroom, interior space, and comfort, only have 1 door) and are less durable and resistant than other types of tents.

These are, by all means, not winter tents and can withstand even less harsher weather conditions than lightweight tents.

Finally, an ultralight backpacking tent is usually a one person tent.

Bonus: UTS – Ultralight Tents on Steroids (AKA Ultralight Shelters)

The lightweight champions are the ultralight tents
The lightweight champions are the ultralight tents

These are rare backpacking tents, but it’s still important to talk about them.

These are normally below 2 pounds (0.9 kilograms) and are non freestanding tents, meaning they are set up via trekking poles and need to be fully staked out (with no tent poles).

A UTS is usually a single wall tent, combining in one single layer the rain fly and the tent body (these are separate in double wall tents).

If you’re still a camping beginner, we would avoid these and choose double wall tents over a trekking pole tent.

So What Is the Ideal Backpacking Tent Weight?

Your perfect backpacking tent won't be your friend's "10/10" backpacking tent
Your perfect backpacking tent won’t be your friend’s “10/10” backpacking tent

The short answer is that no perfect backpacking tent weight suits everyone’s needs.

We can only show you the possibilities out there and the pros and cons of each one, but ultimately, even though most tents tend to be lighter tents, selecting the right backpacking tent is up to you.

When browsing through backpacking tents, you will have to consider your needs and how your camping trip is going to be and triangulate the different data points (how many people are going camping, the weather forecasts, how much headroom, floor space, and comfort you want, etc.) to find the adequate backpacking tent.

Packed Weight vs. Trail Weight

The wrong tent weight can ruin your trip
The wrong tent weight can ruin your trip

Packed weight refers to the whole thing: the complete weight of the tent & accessories, while trail weight is always lower than packed weight as it doesn’t include the weight of a storage sack, stakes, extra guy lines, and repair kit (if available).

So the trail weight only consists of the weight of the main tent body, rain fly, poles, and guy lines.

So we have two definitions, great. But what is the minimum weight of a tent?

The minimum weight is similar to trail weight, as it only includes tent essentials.

You should always check the packed weight because you may not know how heavy some accessories are.

Can There Be Too Much Weight for Backpacking Tents?

If you look like the cartoon when carrying your tent, you're in for a surprise
If you look like the cartoon when carrying your tent, you’re in for a surprise

Yes. Your backpacking tent can collapse due to excessive weight from heavy rain or snow or due to strong wind.

Naturally, ultralight tents are the most likely of the different backpacking tents to collapse, as their materials are less resistant and strong (their poles are less sturdy, and the fabric is thinner).

So how can you prevent tent collapses? While we cannot guarantee that doing this will prevent tent collapses ten out of ten times, small tips can help you:

  • Ensure that your tent is staked down adequately

  • Always bring extra guy lines and use them if the wind is too strong

  • When choosing your campsite, choose a spot with high tree coverage

Note: UTS, given they have trekking poles and are non freestanding tents, are even more likely to collapse, but we are assuming you read the article and are not going camping under extreme weather conditions with a UTS.

Frequently Asked Questions

Any Backpacking Tent Brands You Recommend?

We will write an article about the best brands of backpacking tents in the future; stay tuned!

You Didn’t Mention Any Three Person Tent – Where Would You Include It? And How Much Does It Normally Weigh?

Fair point. A three person tent tends to have good interior space, is usually a double wall tent, and weighs from 3 to 4.5 pounds (so in the category of lightweight tents).

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